The WCO attended a Regional Workshop to assist OCO members with the uniform application and implementation of the Harmonized System (HS) 2017. The Workshop was held in Nadi, Fiji, from 24 to 28 April 2017.
It was attended by seventeen Customs officers representing fifteen Customs Administrations of the OCO and was facilitated by experts from the WCO, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), New Zealand Statistics, the Centre for Customs and Excise Studies (CCES - Australia) and the OCO Secretariat.
The main objective of the Workshop was to assist OCO members in the uniformity in the implementation, interpretation, and application of HS 2017. Moreover, it was also aimed at assisting members to implement their obligations under a number of free trade agreements currently under negotiation.
The Workshop was officially opened by Mr. Seve Paeniu, the Head of the Secretariat of the OCO. He highlighted the importance of implementing HS 2017 given a number of international and regional conventions/instruments that are being implemented or currently under negotiation. Mr. Paeniu further highlighted the OCO initiative to build up a pool of regional experts in the Pacific through a long-term capacity development program with the aim to ensure that there is capacity available at the national level to sustain the HS implementation and any subsequent amendments in the future. He also acknowledged the work of the OCO Technical Working Group on HS, a partnership with WCO, SPC and NZ Statistics and the financial assistance provided by Australia and New Zealand to enable the Workshop to occur and to support the implementation of the HS 2017.
The participants noted presentations by the WCO on the HS Convention and HS 2017 amendments including the WCO tools and instruments developed to assist members with the application of the HS and to modernize tariff classification and related infrastructure. The WCO also made presentations on the materials developed under the WCO Revenue Package to respond to the Members’ needs in respect of fair, efficient and effective revenue collection.
Three member countries, Fiji, Vanuatu and Nauru, presented their national experiences on HS 2017 implementation. The key issues that were highlighted in the presentations included the process of adoption of the HS 2017 and this included the need for establishment of a project team, the use of WCO HS 2017 tools, the correlation exercise, drafting of the new tariff, approval process for the legislation and the internal and external awareness of the changes.
The update on the work on Pacific Tariff Framework was provided by SPC (the Secretariat of the Pacific Community) and it was noted that most of the OCO member administrations had not implemented HS 2017 since its effective date on 1 January 2017. To assist members, the Pacific Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (PACHS) 2017 was being developed and would be completed by June 2017.
Throughout the Workshop, the participants discussed key challenges and opportunities regarding their implementation of HS 2017 and shared experiences in improving their classification work and capacity. The participants also developed the OCO Action Plan for implementation of HS 2017 clearly identifying national capacity building needs. As part of members’ capacity building initiative, the participants supported the need to establish the OCO Training of Trainer Programmes aimed at enhancing the delivery techniques of a pool of regional trainers and to prepare them to conduct training within their respective Customs administrations.
The WCO supports the initiatives and is prepared to further assist with the implementation of HS 2017 in the Pacific and to establish a pool of expert trainers in the region.